The summer convention season is mostly over, with San Diego Comic-Con International
out of the way, and hearing all of my friends come back with war stories from
the latest shows naturally puts me in a semi-nostalgic mood for “the good
Who doesn’t remember sleeping twelve to a room, taking cold showers, eating
horrible, overpriced food (or actually leaving the convention to find a McDonald’s
so you could eat horrible, cheap food), finding that One Special Thing you’ve
been looking for all of your life at a cruddy table run by an old, fat guy with
Cheetos breath, gawking at the hot, just-brought-in-for-the-con booth weasels
who are giving away mints and whistles, standing in line for over an hour to meet
someone you’ve been reading your whole fannish life only to find out that
the creator is a fifty pound arsehole . . . .
Aw, who am I kidding? Conventions are a blast. That is, if you’ve never
been to one before. It’s as close as you can get to a virtual reality simulator,
except, you know, there’s no sex involved. And, Con-Goggles or not, that’s
probably a good thing. In particular, it’s great if you are from a small-to
medium-sized town. In small towns, with only one comic and game shop, you pretty
much know everyone in town with which to have an intelligent Star Trek discussion.
Even a medium-sized convention can be a real eye-opener for you. Here are people
from all over the place, and they like the same stuff that you like. That’s
pretty powerful. One can get drunk on that kind of camaraderie real quick, and
do things like dumping over the ashtrays next to all of the elevators and drawing
Elder Signs in the mess. Hamburgers wind up in the hotel swimming pool. “Normals”
in the hotel get squirted with Super Soakers and informed that they are now melting
from the Holy Water.
When you go to enough conventions, an interesting thing happens. You start to
see the same people, over and over again. Even if you go to cons on the opposite
sides of the country, you’ll still see the same two hundred people. I’m
not talking about literally, here, but symbolically. You’ll see the same
tall, skinny guy with the Mohawk and the sneer, carrying around a battered portfolio
as if he were the first guy to ever put band stickers on his art supplies. You’ll
see the small, skinny kid with the overweight, punk-rock girlfriend with the “Enid-from-Ghost-World”
glasses. You’ll see the guy in the home-made Boba Fett costume. You’ll
see the large gamer in the hat. These are just a few of the archetypes that you
will encounter over and over again. After a while, their features will blur into
a single, doughy mass, and at that point, you need never go to a convention again,
because it’ll always be the same thing over and over. The anime room schedule
may change, but the cast is eternal.
Adding insult to injury, after a while, even the conversation starts disappearing
up its own asshole, to paraphrase Vonnegut. Yeah, we know, Han Shot First, Transformers
ruled unless you were fifteen when they came out, Old Godzilla is best, Carrie
Fisher was hot but now she’s not do-able, I know this guy who can growl
like Chewbacca, how many Deltans does it take to screw in a lightbulb, somebody
oughtta pay ME to run Marvel, well, the guy looked at my art but he just didn’t
get it, Hi, my name is Cat, because I’m just like a Cat and so that’s
what everyone calls me, in Japan comics are taken seriously, Harlan Ellison
bawled me out in public, and so on and so forth. That stream-of-consciousness
rant could have taken place five years ago or last week. It’s all the
same. No depth. No criticism. No thought beyond just going with the flow. Well,
of course Voyager sucked, but it was Star Trek and I have to watch all things
Star Trek . . . .
Is it any wonder that people make fun of us? I have argued before about policing
our own. That is, zeroing in on the people in our local groups that smell bad,
act like jackasses, and in all other respects make life unbearable for everyone
around them, and pulling that person aside and explaining if they don’t
cut it out, they will be ostracized from the group.
The problem is, no one wants to cast the first stone. Who watches the Watchmen?
Apparently, we all would rather suffer fools gladly than hand them a bar of soap.
If that’s true, then we deserve what we get, and that includes the fat bastard
in Klingon make-up on the nightly news talking like he represents the Trek Nation,
magazine articles and newspaper stories with the headline, “POW! ZAP! Comics
Aren’t For Kids Anymore!” and gross stereotypes like the three nerds
and Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons. I say, you can’t make an omelet without
breaking a few eggs.
Think about it: we’re a smart, clever, and mostly employed group of people.
Why aren’t we running the show? I want us all to lose 30 pounds, get laid,
bathe, and go do something on a Friday night that doesn’t involve dice and
Mountain Dew. Entertainment Weekly is JUST NOW getting around to writing about
comics. Just now! Does that bother any of you? We’ve known that Alan Moore
is the shit for a while now. Where do they get off “Breaking the Story”?
He’s ours to tell the world about, not theirs. We feed and clothe Moore
by slavishly buying up his cocktail napkins. He’s rich because of us, not
I’m not suggesting we scorn and abuse them and others like them. I’m
suggesting we put on clothes that have collars and no super hero logos on them
and walk out in front, with clean faces and fresh breath, and be the experts
we know we already are. Conventions are fine, caves are great, Friday night
dungeon crawls are really cool. But there’s a whole other world out there
(no, it’s not the Astral Plane, doofus). If we have decided, as a group,
that we aren’t going to leave it, then let’s at least bring some
fresh blood in and show them around . . . without ogling their breasts, or growling
like Chewbacca. Let them nerd their own selves up, when they are ready.